Former Pit employees caught off-guard by closure

The Pit
The Pit closed its doors on Jan. 9, employees say. — photo by Adam Burke

Iowa City’s barbecue lovers learned with a heavy heart last week that The Pit Smokehouse, located at 130 N. Dubuque St., has closed after 10 years in business.

If the closure took you by surprise, you’re not alone. Former employees say that when the restaurant closed permanently on Jan. 9, many weren’t aware of the decision — and subsequently, the loss of their jobs — until that very afternoon.

When reached by phone, former employee Wes Reese said, “I had [Jan. 9] off, and it was in the early afternoon, between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., that the general manager called me up and informed me of the basics of the situation — that the place was closing down for good.”

Reese says he had his suspicions that the place might be closing, but didn’t realize it was going to happen so quickly.

“The rest of the people who were [working] there, who had been there less time than me, were pretty shocked by it, I imagine,” Reese said, adding that The Pit’s general manager seemed surprised as well, despite having to deliver the news.

So, what happened? We’re still not sure, exactly.

The Press-Citizen reported Friday that The Pit’s closure wasn’t the result of slow business, but rather, an unresolved lease. Co-owner Duncan Profit told the paper that he was attempting to amend the lease to be in his name only, but was unable to complete the separation process before the lease expired.

Prior to its closure, The Pit’s lease held two names: Duncan Profit and his co-owner, Tim Fischer. When speaking with the Press-Citizen last week, however, Profit did not indicate why the separation process failed.

Little Village has reached out to Profit over email, social media and telephone over the past week, but has not received a response. An automated message indicates that Profit’s voicemail inbox has been deactivated.

Beyond the context of the closure itself, Reese says that communication with Profit has been very difficult.

When told that Little Village has had trouble reaching Profit for comment, Reese said, “That’s pretty much the same thing we all went through on a weekly basis.”

“There wasn’t really any direct line to him, ever,” he added.

When approached, former co-owner Tim Fischer said he was unable to comment on the matter. He says he hasn’t been involved with The Pit for more than a year and a half, despite being a “co-owner” on paper, and adds that he’s had little contact with Profit in the mean time.

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